Innistrad is upon us and that means that we get to step into the jungle of an untested and unmolested format. I'm not going to talk about the Innistrad spoilers because I want to save them for my set review. I also don't have the full spoiler yet. It'll be spoiled on the same day that this article goes up and it's better to evaluate the set in its full context. Instead of looking at Innistrad I want to look at some cards that I think have the potential to be central pieces of the post-rotation metagame.
The Future of Standard
The list of cards below is going to show up in Standard in some form after the rotation of Zendikar block. These cards are just too strong not to see play. There are two types of cards to examine when looking at the future Standard format: core cards and support cards. Core cards are centric to a specific strategy while support cards help to develop or mature that strategy. It's important to identify the support cards of a deck because they'll rise in price with the popularity and viability of the strategy. Also keep in mind that support cards are typically worth less than core cards.
Birthing Pod $14.99 (Core) – This is the perfect example of a core card. Without the card Birthing Pod there would be no “Pod Decks.” I remember buying 22 of these out of a guy's binder for $1 each. Some of them were even Japanese. This wasn't the first time that I did this or the last. At the time I was thinking “How in the hell is this a $1 card?” It turns out that it wasn't. I sold them at $5 and haven't checked the price until now. Holy smokes how the lowly have risen! This is one of the cards that I think has the most potential to be a dominant strategy in Standard.
Birthing Pod has been a solid contender in the current Standard environment which has a larger card pool. Now that the card pool is shrinking the number of powerful cards is reduced and this gives Birthing Pod an opportunity to shine. Birthing Pod also plays well with the new morbid mechanic since it's also a sacrifice outlet.
Phantasmal Image $11.99 (Support) – This cards fills an important role in Birthing Pod decks by copying other creatures with “enter the battlefield” abilities. It's also strong in control decks because of its interaction with Sun Titan and Squadron Hawk. Even though Squadron Hawk is leaving the format I doubt that people will stop casting this card. This card has even made its way into Legacy via the Merfolk deck.
Phyrexian Metamorph $7.99 (Support) - This card has very similar applications to Phantasmal Image. The difference here is that there is a promo of this card which is keeping the price lower. There are places where Phyrexian Metamorph is a better fit than Phantasmal Image like in a Tezzeret deck or in Vintage Stax.
Tezzeret Agent of Bolas $19.99 (Core) – This guy is like the little engine that could. Brian Kibler has tried so hard to make him work in everything from Infect to Etched Champion beat down. If Tezzeret still has a place in the top tiers of Standard it's going to be now. I'm a little bit skeptical but I believe that the power level is definitely there. If you look at the 9th place list from the SCG Open: Atlanta you'll see that the deck ports nicely over to the new Standard. Let's take a look at some of the support cards that go with Tezzeret.
Spellskite $11.99 (Support) – This card is seeing lots of cross format play. At first I wasn't convinced about this card but it's done nothing but prove itself since its release. Whenever I'm in a trade and I need to make up a gap in value between $8 and $10 I always shoot for a Spellskite if they have one. This card goes a long way in protecting your win conditions from removal spells and it doesn't do a bad job blocking.
Mox Opal $21.99 (Support) – You might notice that this breaks one of the rules for a “support card.” It's more expensive than Tezzeret and more expensive than Tempered Steel (it's also a support card in that deck). The reason for this is because Mox Opal is a multi-format staple and that trumps all the other pricing “rules.” Another example of this is Thoughtseize ($39.99); it's used as a support card but it's in multiple decks across many formats.
Tempered Steel $6.99 (Core) - This strategy has been gaining a lot of respect recently. The deck stays intact minus Steel Overseer (and Ornithopter) after rotation but it still has a lot of game. I'm not sure how high an anthem effect can go in price but I think Glorious Anthem reached $10 at the height of B/W Tokens. If Tempered Steel becomes the best deck I could see this card going for $12-$15. On the other hand that's a pretty big “if.”
Inkmoth Nexus $11.99 (Support) – This card is becoming a multi-format staple but it hasn't quite got there yet. It might run into some complications in reaching that status if Blazing Shoal gets banned today (September 20th) because then Inkmoth Nexus will see less play in Modern. Nevertheless this card will remain at its current price point because of its playability in Standard and its casual appeal.
Sword of Feast and Famine $29.99 (Core) – The innovation of putting this card in a control deck has changed the face of Standard and how we build control decks. The sword has made all of the “useless” value creatures that control typically plays into serious threats. For example this card was put into a deck with Spellstutter Sprite in Modern. Not only do you get to counter a spell on the way in but you get to swing with a 3/3 specter that allows you to untap your lands. I'm already hearing rumors of a Snapcaster Mage deck (yeah I broke the Innistrad vow of silence sorry) that runs three Sword of Feast and Famine.
I'm telling you about these post-rotation pillars so that you can position yourself trade-stock-wise. It's okay to trade for the cards above at their full value because they will be in demand for the new season of Standard. Picking these cards up will position you to be well stocked but it won't necessarily position you to make money. The way that you're going to make money is to pick up the sleeper mythics which are going to gain steam after the rotation.
I don't have a crystal and I'm not one for “shot-calling” with no data but I want to throw a few cards out there that I think have potential to be great in the new Standard format.
Hero of Oxid Ridge $7.99 – One of the biggest cards being used against Mono Red right now is Timely Reinforcement. This card gives red (or aggro) decks a way to power through the creature advantage created by Timely Reinforcements. Battle cry with haste creates a lot of value for an aggro deck and I expect this card to see a good amount of play post-rotation.
Thrun the Last Troll $7.99 – This is a card that didn't have a lot of time to shine in the oppressive world of Titans and Jace but new Standard might change that. In a world where decks are leaning on Dismember to keep their position and tempo Thrun is an all-star. I've been picking these up in trade for as low as $3 and I think that they still have room to grow.
Skithiryx the Blight Dragon $4.99 – Brian Kibler took a U/B infect deck to 3rd place at the SCG Open in Los Angeles. When I saw that this card had fallen to $4.99 on Star City Games I had a sudden impulse to buy them out. I obviously fought the urge and decided to wait for tournament results first but this card seems like it is better that $5. The biggest issue for this card right now is Dismember but it typically only takes one hit after some proliferation and early infect damage.
Infect seems to be an unexplored strategy; what about a Birthing Pod deck that churns out Blight Dragons and Putrefaxes? Okay that might be pushing it but there could be a deck out there.
Modern Banned List
This is another time where a Crystal Ball would be really helpful. By now you already know what was banned and restricted in Modern. I don't know because the announcement hasn't been made yet. Instead of remaining silent I'm going to take a page from my programming background and give you guys some “if-then” logic.
If Blazing Shoal gets banned then keep your Shoals. There is talk about this deck in Legacy. In Legacy you have better ways to protect your combo and the removal isn't as hostile as it is in Modern. If the deck Top 8s in Legacy then you will get more for your Shoals than trying to fire sale them on the day of the announcement.
If Jace the Mind Sculptor Mental Misstep or Ancestral Vision gets unbanned then buy Cryptic Command ($14.99) and Vedalken Shackles ($14.99). It seems that Wizards of the Coast wants games to go longer in the Modern format. I get the feeling that cards like Blazing Shoal and Rite of Flame are going to get banned and cards like Jace the Mind Sculptor and Ancestral Vision are going to be unbanned to spawn a true control deck. Cryptic Command and Vedalken Shackles will be played in this deck if it finds the room in Modern to exist.
The most important thing to do here is keep your head on straight and don't panic. Wait for tournament results before making purchases besides the ones above. That's all for this week see you next week!